The world has gone absolutely bananas with restrictive eating, calorie counting, and yo-yo dieting. Entire food groups have been vilified while others have been praised as having limitless benefit, all while abandoning the idea of balance and moderation.
No, the fruits will not make you fat. No, fat is not the best source of energy for non-endurance athletes. Yes, micronutrients matter and should be considered when building a balanced and healthy diet.
While tracking with apps and following meal plans is helpful for learning what to look for, the goal is to adopt sustainable habits that can become effortless. Here are a few practical strategies for creating healthy eating habits that you don’t have to “cheat” on, and that will improve your health and your relationship with food. Looking good is important for all of us, but feeling good should be the true measure of health.
Here’s how to make it simple:
Focus on quality!
The quality and freshness of what you are eating matters. Processed and refined foods can add a big hit of calories while lacking in vitamins and minerals. Canned soups, frozen meals and snacks, snack bars, snack packs, pre-made shakes and smoothies, refined cereals, bread, and pasta tend to be overloaded with sodium, sugars, and preservatives that can lead to inflammation and poor nutrient absorption. Having these items occasionally is fine, but building your routine around these foods causes problems if your goal is improving your health through nutrition.
Keep it simple by focusing on whole and fresh foods like veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, nut butter, whole grains, good quality fish and poultry, and homemade snacks and travel meals. Make sure you have access to whole food options to avoid processed foods out of convenience. Having an apple or ¼ cup of raw almonds around.
Focus on quantity!
Portion control matters even with healthy food options. Understanding what a serving size looks like for food groups and what foods belong to each food group makes it a lot easier to navigate portion control. Sometimes we think we are eating a healthy snack when we pick up protein shake at our favorite smoothie shop, but when you factor in the nut butter, fruits, powders, and liquids, your snack can quickly rack up to 600+ calories. These healthy choices without portion awareness and control could be the difference between losing extra weight and gain more weight.
Read labels and know what you are eating. When you prepare at home, this is easier, but most restaurants offer nutrition data, so get familiar with your favorite spots.
Follow this helpful portion guide to stay on track.
Focus on timing
What you eat and how much you eat are very important to be healthy, but what about when you eat? Are you eating when you need energy for your day and lowering your food intake as your day winds down? This is a huge problem with the way we live in today’s world. Many people ask their bodies and brain to run on empty from morning to afternoon. They get a lite mid-day meal then starve or snack on junk in the early evening before going to the gym to try and build muscle with no fuel. Then, they go home starving and eat most of their calories a few hours before going to sleep. No wonder people are training for months with no results! No wonder people are having issues with digestion! Also, no wonder people are getting inadequate sleep!
To be healthy, you must eat for energy output rather than gorging out of depletion. Do you know the saying about water that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated? Well, the same goes for food; if you are hungry, you are already out of fuel. Front loading your day, then tapering off, is one of the most natural and most difficult shifts for people to make. Learning how to get your nutrition in when the sun is shining helps your metabolism process and effectively utilize your nutrition instead of storing it. Making sure you have a brain, and body fuel for work and fitness training will give you more stamina and better results every time. Having a regular schedule for eating in place also helps prevent impulse eating out of hunger and stress. Get in the habit of eating when you need fuel and energy than reducing calorie intake when you need rest.